Guam Gov. Lou Leno Guerrero has ordered a shakeup of the island territory’s Child Protective Services in the wake of a data review that pointed to systemic problems that have led to a failure to identify and root out “serious and significant instances of child abuse, maltreatment, and neglect,” according to news reports.
In an executive order that declared CPS to be in a state of emergency, the Democrat temporarily shifted oversight of CPS away from the Department of Public Health and Social Services, citing “potential shortfalls of supervision and administration” there.
For an unspecified period of time, the Department of Youth Affairs (DYA) will manage all administrative tasks at CPS, such as case and referral management, staffing and coordination and financial information. DYA employees will work closely with their CPS counterparts to help get the agency back on track.
“DYA is often mistakenly thought of as solely youth corrections, that they exist only for children who need to be incarcerated,” said governor’s spokeswoman Krystal Paco-San Agustin. “DYA also focuses on youth services and has on staff social workers who are trained to deal with all aspects of why children become involved with the justice system.”
The executive order and the review that spurred it apparently didn’t paint a full picture of what led to the state of emergency at CPS, but Administrator Linda Rodriguez has spoken out publicly about high turnover and unstable staffing numbers, according to the Guam-based Pacific Daily News.
“I’m going to admit to everybody: We cannot touch every single referral. We only have 15 CPS workers,” Rodriguez told lawmakers in 2018, something she reasserted last year. By last July, CPS had just four investigators — half the number from 2018 — and five social workers in the case management unit, down from six, the newspaper reported her saying.
CPS consistently receives more than 1,000 referrals a year, the newspaper said, citing public records, and caseloads are staggering.
“By actively investigating and addressing the issues at this critical agency, we are safeguarding our children from any further harm, and I am confident that the leadership at DYA will get this done,” Gov. Leon Guerrero said in a statement.
“Child Protective Services was created to help our children — to ensure their safety and protect them from abuse and neglect. While we acknowledge the hard work and dedication of our social workers at CPS, we must also take action when the system is no longer fulfilling its mission,” the governor said.